ROGER HALSTEAD SETS THE SCENE FOR SUNDAY’S BIG GAME
LED by skipper Gareth Owen, the 17 men in red and white on Sunday will be playing for themselves, the club, their fans and for head coach Scott Naylor, who will be in charge for his 197th and final game.
As far as the dressing room is concerned you can’t divorce the boss’s farewell from all the other reasons they cherish for wanting to beat Newcastle Thunder in the big promotion decider at the Vestacare Stadium.
Said hooker Owen:
“Nobby has been a class act for the club for seven years. Our dream is to get the job done, win promotion and then party with him.
“In terms of promotion we’ve got to think of ourselves and of the club, going forward, but it would be brilliant, as part of that, if we could send Nobby off on a high.
“Games like these are what we all play for. We’re going into the game fully aware of the size of the task but quietly confident nevertheless.
“We’ve been playing well (10 wins out of the last 11 games) and we are fully rested and prepared after a free Sunday last week.
“We feel we’ve got the team to win, especially at home and hopefully with a big and vocal crowd behind us. That does make a real difference, believe me.”
As a centre in an all-conquering Bradford Bulls side, Naylor played in numerous Challenge Cup finals and Grand Finals at Old Trafford.
Bradford back then were always on the big stage so the boss knows what he’s talking about when he says:
“For the next couple of days the boys have to remain calm and not even think about it too much until Saturday night at the soonest.
“They’re all looking forward to Sunday but they know they’ll have to play well.
“I’m not going to try and tell them ‘It’s just another game.’ because it isn’t and they know it isn’t . . . it’s a final.
“It’s a big opportunity for the club to move up the ladder and if any group of players deserves to achieve that and then to enjoy the celebrations afterwards it’s this group.
“Very rarely do you get a bunch of lads like these. They’ve got a great work ethic and a great attitude and, individually and collectively, they are trying to improve themselves all the time for the good of themselves, their club and their fans.
“They’ve been a brilliant bunch to work with this year. Even when things have gone wrong they’ve copped it on the chin from me, knowing that its only because we want to move forward together and get better and stronger with each game.
“Some of them (Phil Joy and Danny Langtree) have been with me for the past seven years and that’s a long time. We’ve been through a lot together.
“But the whole group has been fantastic this year. I couldn’t have asked for more of them. There’s just one challenge left and that makes it a massive day for everyone associated with the club.”
Of the side that played in Naylor’s first game in charge — a 48-12 defeat at North Wales Crusaders in the Northern Rail Cup on March 3, 2013 — only one player remains to this day.
A young Danny Langtree was in the second row at Wrexham six and a half years ago and although he had a short spell at Hull FC earlier this year he’ll be back where he belongs on the day the boss bows out.
It’s a Grand Final not to be missed.